Everything comes crashing down for Mrs Appleyard in this week's tense final episode of Picnic At Hanging Rock.
Two students – Miranda (Lily Sullivan) and Marion (Madeleine Madden) – and a teacher, Miss McCraw (Anna McGahan), are missing after the picnic. It leaves Mrs Appleyard (Natalie Dormer) powerless to stop this public relations disaster.
"The idea that the girls have been set free, escaped or possibly murdered completely makes everyone fall apart," Lily, 24, says. "And for their own personal reasons, not even for the care of the girls."
The remaining students at Appleyard College wait to be collected by their anxious parents.
But Mrs Appleyard packs a bag with as much money and jewellery as she can carry. And, of course, her "highwayman's gun" and the memories it carries, one of which is just who she really is.
There's a good reason, we finally learn, why she's so "pure and refined". And it explains why Mrs Appleyard might not have been too sad to lose the missing students after all.
But as much as she's tried to wash away her murky past, things have a way of catching up with the headmistress.
First, the school gardener makes a shocking discovery regarding Sara (Inez Curro).
"It was pretty wild," Inez, 15, teases of the heart-stopping scene. "Sara wasn't a character who was in the background, not having influence… and that was cool to play."
Earlier in the episode, we flash back to a happier time for Sara, who had joined Miranda at her family's farm over the Christmas break.
Sara loves being with Miranda, but the latter's mind is elsewhere.
Spending time at home with her family has reminded Miranda of everything she misses. As the day approaches for the girls to return to Appleyard College, it's obvious she has escape in mind.
"I saw a wild brumby being rounded up once," she tells Sara. "He refused to get caught… he ran straight off the escarpment."
"Did he ride off through the air?" Sara asks.
"He crashed to his death," Miranda says. "It's all right, he was free."
And the signs keep coming. Miranda hangs all her corsets on the fence, telling her mum (Zoe Bertram) she's not going back. She defiantly says to her dad (Richard Sutherland), "I belong here!" before inevitably being sent back.
Meanwhile, in the present, Mrs Appleyard's world has unravelled.
The menacing Tomasetti (Marcus Graham) has dark news about Mrs Appleyard's abusive ex-husband. Also, Sara's guardian is back to rescue his ward, and a house fire leaves Miss Lumley (Yael Stone) fighting for her life.
It's all too much for the college head, who rides to the Rock.
"A new beginning? Or an end?" she wonders, as she makes it to the top.
Some mysteries are wrapped up by episode's end. But be warned. Just like the original book and film, some things are still left to the imagination.
- PuzzlesThe Australian Women's Weekly July Issue Online Entry
Prizes To LoveToday 12:00am